On the role of the history of mathematics in math education

In recent years, important works on the relationship between history and mathematics
education have appeared:
(a) The Proceedings of the “European Summer University on History and Epistemology in
Mathematics Education” (Montpellier, France, 1993, Braga, Portugal, 1996, and
Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1999),
(b) Two books based on the elaboration of papers which were presented during the satellite  meetings of HPM (History and Pedagogy of Mathematics, one of the ICMI affiliated
international groups), the first edited by R. Calinger (MAA 1996), and the second edited
by V. Katz (MAA 2000),
(c) The ICMI Study book on “History in Mathematics Education”, edited by J. Fauvel and J.
van Maanen.
(d) Journals for Mathematics Teachers and/or Mathematics Education Researchers have
published special issues on the History of Mathematics in Mathematics Teaching (e.g. For
the Learning of Mathematics in 1991, Mathematics in school in 1998 and Mathematics
teacher in 2000). The re-born newsletter of HPM (International Study Group on the
Relations between History and Pedagogy of Mathematics) is becoming (we hope) a forum
where piece of information and ideas are shared.
These material and the experiments carried out all over the world make further discussion on the role of the History of Mathematics in Mathematics Teaching both possible and necessary. In recent discussions the expression “integration of History in Mathematics Teaching” appears frequently. Which ideas are behind this expression? The main idea is that of using History as a mediator to pursue the objectives of Mathematics Education. This means that, these objectives, together with the study of the historical evolution of concepts should be analysed. This work has to be carried out by educators and historians in a collaborative way. Among the benefits, which are expected to result from this work, is the new perspective offered by History to consider students’ difficulties in learning Mathematics. To make teacher active actors in this process we need to give a convenient place to the History of Mathematics in pre-service and in-service teacher education.
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